Prospects of peace open in Ukraine war - GulfToday

Prospects of peace open in Ukraine war

Turkish President Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before their talks in Istanbul. AP

Turkish President Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before their talks in Istanbul. AP

As Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Istanbul mediated by go-between Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire. The Russians said that he was not part of their delegation. Two very clear points have emerged in the Tuesday talks.

The Russians have said they would scale down their military engagement in the north of Ukraine. The Ukrainians have promised to maintain a neutral stance with guarantees for Ukraine’s independence on lines of Article 5 of the Nato agreement.

But the deal has not yet been clinched. It, however, reflected the ground reality. Russians seem to have realised that their military has not been able to beat down Ukrainian resistance and take the major Ukrainian cities including Kyiv, the capital, and Mariupol, the besieged port city in the south. The Ukrainians have recognised the fact that they must agree to a neutral status for Ukraine to end the Russian military onslaught. The Russians said that they will report the Ukrainian proposals to President Vladimir Putin. But the positions of the two sides have been made public from the leaders of the negotiating teams.

Russian deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin told reporters: “In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions. The details of winding down the military operations are to be revealed by the Russia’s General Staff once the negotiating team returned to Moscow. Oleksander Chaly, the leader of the Ukrainian negotiating team said, “If we manage to consolidate these key provisions – then Ukraine will be in a position to actually fix its current status as a non-bloc non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality.” So there is quite a distance to be covered between the proposals and their acceptance by the top leaders in the two countries. But there are definite proposals from each side on the table is a sign that a breakthrough is round the corner.

Ukraine’s proposals indicate that Ukraine would not join alliances or host foreign troops on its soil in return for guarantees by Nato members Canada, Poland and Turkey, and that Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany, and Italy could also be guarantors. The proposals also include a 15-year negotiation period about the status of Russia-annexed Crimea, and the issue of the Donbas region would be set aside to be negotiated by the two sides later.

The war seems to have a reached a stalemate and both Ukrainians and Russians seem to recognise it, and there is an attempt to work out the details of a ceasefire and also move towards a general agreement on the discord that resulted in the war. There could still be glitches which need to be sorted out. But the road to peace has been opened. It may take a long time and difficult negotiations to reach an accord.

Turkey seems to enjoy the trust of both the sides, and it is a tribute to Turkish diplomatic efforts, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his diplomats. Turkey is crucially located as a neighbour of both Ukraine and Russia.

The interesting fact is that despite being a member of Nato, Turkey did not play a passive role of following Nato’s hostility towards Russia. Breaking from the official position of Nato, Turkey took an independent initiative and kept its efforts going even during the early weeks of war when Russia did not seem to be willing to negotiate peace.

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